India look for fifth SAFF Championships title



India senior side, led by Bhaichung Bhutia, lost 0-1 in the last edition final in Colombo to Maldives and if Sukhwinder Singh's boys bring home the fifth title tomorrow it would be a big achievement for the players as well as the coach.
Not only avenging last year's final loss, a win in the summit clash tomorrow for India will make it even their 0-2 defeat in the last group match on December 9 against the same opponents.

Four-time champions India, who are playing in the seventh final out of the eight editions so far, will also like to stop Maldives from becoming the second side after themselves to win back-to-back titles.

India had done that in 1997 and 1999, and Sukhwinder was the coach at the latter year when the championships was held in Goa.
Maldives though will start the match at favourites having beaten India 2-0 in the group stage. They are the side peaking at the right time.
They drew their first match against Nepal and since then have outplayed every team they had faced, the last being the 5-1 thrashing of Sri Lanka in semifinal.

Maldives have brought their best players with an aim to defend their title. They had beaten Malaysia senior and Under 23 sides in their build-up to the regional tournament besides playing against Korean and Bahraini club sides.
Sukhwinder though is not concerned of the group loss and Maldives rampant form in the semifinal, saying that both teams will start from the scratch in the final and his side has the wherewithal to win the title.

"Maldives are a good side but we are also equally good. Both teams will start from the scratch tomorrow. In a tournament like this among comparable sides any side can win on a given day and my boys are well prepared for the final. They are in high spirits after the semifinal win," he said.
"All my boys are fit and fine except for Jagpreet Singh and Manish Maithani. Balwant will also be back after serving one match suspension due to the red card against Maldives in the last group match," he added.

India will, however, have to find a way how to stop the Maldivian frontmen who have scored 11 goals among themselves while Sukhwinder boys have netted just three out of which one was gifted by their opponent's goalkeeper.
Captain Sushil Kumar Singh and his strike partner -- either Balwant Singh and Jeje Lalpeklua -- will have to carry on the good form of the semifinal and create chances.

Indian defence, one the other hand, have to stop Maldivian strikers Ali Ashfaq and Ahmed Thoriq and attacking mid-fielder Ibrahim Fazeel from their maneuvering.
Thoriq is joint tournament highest scorer with Bangladeshi Enamul Haque while Ashfaq and Fazeel have netted three each.
Team India: (From):
Sushil Kumar Singh (capt), Arindam Bhatacharya, Laximikant Kattimani, D Ravanan, Denzil Franco, Nirmal Chetri, Naoba Singh, Ravinder Singh, Robert Lalthlamuana, Rowilson Rodrigues, Baldip Singh, Balwant Singh, Jewel Raja, Jibbon Singh, Joaquim Abranches, Subodh Kumar, Jagtar Singh, Jeje Lalpeklua.

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